Introduction to Syntax Linear structure Hierarchical structure Ambiguity
Syntax is: Syntax, n. [Sy The study of grammatical relations between words and other units within the sentence.• The study of sentence formation• Subconscious grammatical knowledge• Word order
What do children know?• Children, when acquiring language learn the following from the language surrounding them: – Word order (SVO, SOV, etc.) – N-Adj or Adj-N – What do you think (what’s) in there?• How do kids master this so quickly?
Universal Grammar? (UG) • Child hears the surrounding language • Detects patterns and matches them with already stored structures • Switches on those that match; switches off those that don’t (subconsciously) • Kids seems to develop, instead of learn language. (Human children construct language! ) Clark p. 222 (Heny)
What do native speakers know? • Grammaticality • Implied interpretations • Ambiguity • Synonymy
Grammaticality Judgments: – We went to my grandmother’s house. – Visiting relatives can be a nuisance. – The children might being sing. – We fed her snail poison. – Colorless green ideas sleep furiously. – Me and Beth are watching a movie. – Swedes like fish more than Italians. – She ain’t got nothing to hide.
Grammaticality Judgments: – We went to my grandmother’s house. – Visiting relatives can be a nuisance. – The children might being sing. – We fed her snail poison. – Colorless green ideas sleep furiously. – Me and Beth are watching a movie. – Swedes like fish more than Italians. – She ain’t got nothing to hide. • A: ambiguous, *: ungrammatical, #: grammatical, but nonsensical, %: grammatical in a non-standard v.
Ambiguous?• I scratched the dog with a stick I love linguistics!!! I’m a stick I’m a dog (I think!)
Do I mean this?• I scratched (the dog with a stick) Nice doggie!
Or do I mean this?• I scratched (the dog) with a stick. scratch scratch
The two meanings are aresult of:HIERARCHICAL STRUCTURESentences are more than just ordered sequences of words.They have internal hierarchical structure as well.scratched the dog with a stick scratched the dog with a stick dog has stick I have stick
Unavoidable Ambiguity• Why can’t we convey these internal hierarchical structures and avoid ambiguity?• LINEAR ORDER – Human verbal communication is limited by linear production. Consequently, sentences are organized linearly.
Two kinds of ambiguity:• She called her boyfriend from Australia. – STRUCTURAL AMBIGUITY• We went down to the bank yesterday – LEXICAL AMBIGUITY
Basic Word Order • SVO (English, Chinese) – The boy saw the man. • SOV (Russian, Turkish, Japanese) – Pensive poets painful vigils keep. (Pope) • VSO (Irish, Arabic, Welsh) – Govern thou my song. (Milton)
Basic Word Order • OSV (Jamamadi & Yoda) – When nine hundred years you reach, look as good you will not. – So…put subject in front of the verb, would you? Fail this test you will. • OVS (Apalai - Amazon basin) • VOS (Malagasy (Madagascar)
How would you say…• English (SVO) – Susie brings coffee• Japanese (SOV) – sushi-ga co:hi:-o mottekuru – Susie coffee bring• Malagasy (VOS) – Entin’ kafe Susie – bring coffee Susie
Two principles of sentenceorganization• 1. LINEAR ORDER – not only a limitation, we actually make use of the linearity of the language• In English, limited morphology forces us to use word order to distinguish subject from object. – Tom chased Jerry. – Jerry chased Tom.
Two principles of sentenceorganization• 2. HIERARCHICAL STRUCTURE – As we saw with the ambiguous sentence, this structure is ‘invisible’ upon first glance. – However, there are tests we can perform to discover the hierarchical structure of sentences.
ConstituencyCONSTITUENTa group of words in a sentence that behave syntacticallyand semantically as a unit. dog has stick I have stick scratched the dog with a stick scratched the dog with a stick
How to determineconstituency• Semantic intuitions – sometimes, we just know that certain strings of words go together as a unit.• Constituency Tests (more reliable) – tests that can be applied to string of words in a given sentence to determine if the string is a constituent or not.
Next ….• Constituency tests• Phrase Structure Rules